These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.
With thanks to Virtuella.
For of the most High cometh healing. - The Bible Ecclesiasticus xxxviii. 2
“Your King commands you to give him the weapon.” Aragorn spoke in a tone more often heard in commanding troops or calling an unruly council to order.
Faramir hesitated for a moment before replying, “My lord, I am sorry, I cannot.”
“Look over there!” Aragorn cried. He pointed to the far corner of the chamber. While Faramir was momentarily distracted he lunged and grabbed the dagger from his Steward’s hand.
Faramir glared at Aragorn and looked longingly at the blade. “Again you thwart, me, Elessar!” he cried. “I curse you!”
Éowyn paled. “No, Faramir. To speak thus is treason!”
Aragorn gave no reaction to the outburst. “Sit down, Faramir,” he said calmly. “You are not well.”
“No! My life must end now.”
Aragorn reached out and gripped Faramir’s arm. The Steward collapsed on the floor with a cry. The King cushioned his fall and sank to his knees, supporting the semi-conscious man.
Éowyn knelt beside them, a troubled expression on her face.
Aragorn turned to face the crowd of curious servants who had gathered. “Mistress Elwen, you bring me hot water,” he said, “the rest of you return to your duties. Lord Faramir is not himself. Captain Beregond, take the dagger and stow it away safely, together with your lord’s sword.”
The servants scuttled away, Beregond followed at a more sedate place
“What’s happening to him?” asked Éowyn.
Aragorn took Faramir’s hand, which was again deathly cold and felt his brow. Faramir’s teeth were chattering and he stared blankly ahead of him.
“I fear this is another effect of the Black Breath,” said Aragorn. “I have seen it take men this way before, driving out all that is good and hopeful from their hearts and filling them with despair. I should never have left him!”
“Nor should I.” said Éowyn. “But tell me, my friend, will he recover?” Her eyes were wide with fear. She laid a loving hand on her husband’s arm, but he recoiled from her touch.
“I will use every art known to me to ensure that he does.” Aragorn said firmly. “Firstly, we must get him warm and I must tend his wounds. Do you have any furs?”
“I have fur cloaks in my wardrobe,” Éowyn replied. ”Shall I fetch them from my chamber?”
“Please do, Éowyn.”
Éowyn hurried away. Aragorn looked up and became aware that Beregond hovered in the doorway.
“Have you stowed the weapons away safely?” Aragorn asked the Captain.
“Yes, my lord, and one of the guards is cleaning the dagger.”
“Close the door then and help me lift Lord Faramir on to the bed, please.”
Together the two men accomplished their task. Aragorn then bade Beregond make up the fire. He pulled the blankets up to the Steward’s waist and removed the blood-spattered nightshirt. Faramir struggled feebly and seemed deaf to the soothing words of reassurance the King offered. As he had expected, he found several shallow cuts across Faramir’s chest. Aragorn had seen this before, men driven to despair who sought to take their own lives usually made a few tentative cuts before achieving their lethal purpose. He shuddered. He had come too close this night to losing his dearest friend and wisest counsellor. He pressed his ear against Faramir’s chest and found that his heart beat far too slowly while his skin felt like ice. He placed a hand on Faramir’s forehead, seeking to connect with his mind, but it was like trying to swim beneath dark and clouded waters full of ice, which he could not break.
Mistress Elwen knocked on the door. Beregond took the bowl of steaming water that she brought and placed in on the table beside Faramir’s bed. Aragorn crumbled some athelas leaves into the water.
“Take deep breaths of the steam,” he instructed his friend.
“No, no!” Faramir cried. “It sears, it burns!”
Aragorn groaned inwardly. Faramir was obviously deep in the grip of some dark enchantment, which even the athelas seemed to have little power against. The herb had roused him from the deathly slumber, but a darkness lingered in the Steward’s mind, which threatened to destroy him body and soul. He dipped a cloth in the athelas mixture and began to cleanse Faramir’s wounds.
“No!” Faramir protested. “This worthless body must be utterly destroyed. Let me follow my father into the fire, which alone can cleanse the foulness!”
“I cannot let you bleed, son of my heart, nor permit your wounds to become infected while you are not yourself,” Aragorn said firmly.
Faramir ceased struggling but seemed to withdraw even further in some dark corner of his tortured mind.
Aragorn tied the bandage; he took Faramir’s icy hands between his own and started to chafe them. Faramir, though, jerked away from his touch as if it burned him.
Éowyn returned carrying an armful of furs. “How is he?” she asked.
“His wounds are slight, but his mind is clouded with darkness,” Aragorn told her. He took the cloaks from her and wrapped them around Faramir, with the fur next to his skin. Instead of snuggling into the warm covers, though, the Steward seemed to recoil from them as he did from their touch.
Beregond threw more logs on the fire and discreetly withdrew.
The King moved to the foot of the bed and studied Faramir’s face. The Steward’s eyes were closed and he had his head turned away from both his lady and his lord. He seemed to be in the grip of some dreadful waking dream, which was destroying him. Aragorn tried to recall everything Master Elrond had ever taught him concerning the Black Breath. It seemed that a trace of the malady had lingered within Faramir’s spirit, which had been stirred by him touching the bespelled dagger. Aragorn knew he must find a way to reawaken Faramir’s soul to all the goodness and beauty within Arda and within his life. Warmth did not seem to be helping the Steward, neither did athelas, the most potent weapon known to healers against the deadly illness.
Faramir lifted his head a little and spoke. “Go, leave me, Éowyn,” he said. “You never truly loved me, now you will be free to wed one more worthy. And you, Elessar, I know you pitied me, which is why you offered me friendship and called me your son, while in your heart you secretly despised me!”
Éowyn began to weep quietly. Aragorn opened his mouth to remind Faramir that their shared Thought Bond could conceal no falsehoods He remained silent, though, knowing it was futile to try to reason with one whose mind was so disturbed. Just as futile as Éowyn’s tears. He knew he must find a way to save the one he loved as dearly as a son. Maybe a healing chant would help, but would it hold sufficient power?
“Estel?” Arwen’s voice called from outside the door.
“Come in, my love.”
The Queen entered her lovely eyes full of concern. ”How is Faramir?” she asked. “Beregond told me he was not faring well.”
Aragorn nodded sadly. “I was wondering if a healing chant might aid him,” he said.
Arwen nodded. “It might, but a healing song would have more power. Did not song create order out of nothingness at the beginning? But first, light candles to banish every shadow from the chamber.”
Glad to be given a new sense of purpose, Éowyn bustled from the room in search of candles.
“We will together call upon Estë,” said Arwen. “I would not have our friend and Steward fall victim to the darkness.”
“His mind is so clouded he might try to flee from the song,” said Aragorn.
“Then we shall lock the door and bid his loyal captain to return lest we need his help,” said the Queen. She called Mistress Elwen to summon Beregond.
Éowyn lit candles in every corner of the chamber until it resembled the Merethrond on a feast day. Beregond was bidden to stand by the bed and be watchful. Aragorn called for more hot water and steeped several leaves of athelas in it. The herb might not be working for Faramir, but it would raise his own spirits and strengthen his resolve.
Aragorn placed his hand on Faramir’s forehead and began with a simple prayer to Estë, a chant rather than a song. Then Arwen joined in and began to weave a melody.
Éowyn had little time for Elvish music, finding it insipid compared to the hearty songs of her homeland. The songs of the Rohirrim told of the great deeds of their ancestors or the beauty of their horses and the land where they roamed. Such songs fired the blood on a chilly night or made the farmer’s labours easier. Elvish songs seemed to have little purpose other than to sound sweet and while away the hours of the immortal singers. Usually Éowyn struggled to remain awake during them. This song though was different; it made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end and every fibre of her being feel more alive. The song was both sweet and painful, sad and joyful, ancient yet new, and all at the same time as the King and Queen’s voices rose and fell in perfect harmony.
For a few moments, Faramir remained motionless and silent. Then suddenly he groaned and writhed as if in pain. He raised his hands and covered his ears with them. Aragorn gently but firmly prised them away. He grasped one cold hand in his own, all the while never pausing in his song. He gestured to Éowyn to take Faramir's other hand. Beregond remained alert in case it became needful to restrain the Steward.
The song continued; the words telling of the great deeds of the Valar and the beauties of the world they had created out of song. The melodies became ever sweeter and the harmonies more complex. Aragorn's deep resonant bass, mingled perfectly with Arwen’s high sweet soprano.
Faramir's eyes flickered open. For a few moments, his gaze darted wildly around the room before meeting Aragorn's kindly and concerned gaze. His writhing ceased and he breathed deeply of the athelas vapours, all the while listening to the song as if entranced.
At last, the voices died away, the final notes appearing almost to float in the evening air.
Faramir slowly sat up and studied the anxious faces surrounding him. “What happened?” he asked. “Éowyn? Aragorn?”
“What do you remember?” asked Aragorn.
“I was in Minas Ithil and we found an ancient chest. There were finely crafted daggers within of skilled and ancient design. I picked one up and was enveloped in a cold dark fog from which I could not escape until I heard the music. It was a foul place indeed, without light or hope. But how did I come to be here and where are my clothes?” He belatedly noticed the Queen's presence and pulled the furs more closely about him.
“It is a long story,” said Aragorn. “Suffice to say for now that Beregond brought you home from Minas Ithil and we sang to lead you back into the light.”
“I was lost and could not find you, father of my heart, nor could I find could Éowyn, nor my little ones, nor any of the happiness I have known these past years. Gondor herself was lost in darkness. It seemed as if all that was good was lost to me forever.”
“It was but a trick caused by the Enemy’s dark arts,” said Aragorn. “All is well and as it should be.”
“How do you feel now?” asked Éowyn.
“I am hungry and this room is far too hot!” His features clouded again. “Young Turgon touched the daggers too. How does he fare?”
“I am certain the cook will have some food for you,” said Éowyn. She looked at her husband and then at the King and Queen and her heart swelled with love and gratitude. Fearing she might burst into tears, she hastened from the room.
“Turgon is well, I have spoken with him. He has been picking apples all afternoon then ate a hearty supper,” said Aragorn.
“The Valar be praised! That chest and its contents must be destroyed before any more unwary souls can fall victim to the dark magic.”
“A wise decision.”
“Can someone fetch me some clothes so I can get out of bed?” Faramir asked.
“I will go and ask your manservant to bring some,” said Beregond.
“I promised Eldarion I would tell him a bedtime story,” said Arwen. “I will leave you with your patient, Estel.” She left the room, closing the door behind her.
“I feel perfectly well,” Faramir protested as Aragorn felt his forehead and checked his heartbeat. He then noticed the bandages and stared at them in bewilderment. “I do not recall being wounded?”
“You tried to hurt yourself with your dagger,” Aragorn said gently. “You suffered a recurrence of the Black Breath and were not yourself.”
Faramir looked horrified. “I cut myself with my dagger? What else did I do and say?”
“Nothing of any consequence,” Aragorn said firmly. “The Black Breath destroys all sense of hope and joy. It caused you to talk gibberish.”
“Am I doomed to be mad like my father, melancholy like my mother, and plagued with recurrences of the Black Breath?” There was fear in Faramir's voice.
“Indeed not, my friend.” Aragorn shook his head. “You have one of the greatest minds of this age. Unlike your father, you have fought the dread malady and triumphed. You also resisted the lure of the Ring, which takes the strongest of wills. As for your mother, it was the presence of the Enemy nearby and longing for the sea that lowered her spirits. She was joyous in her youth. I very much doubt you will ever suffer another relapse as long as you avoid bespelled weapons. You were enchanted with an ancient evil magic. However, I would like you to inhale athelas daily for a while and take some herbs I will prepare for you, just to make absolutely certain you are healed. Also, you must tell me at once if you feel melancholy or your soul is troubled in any way.”
“I must be a weakling as Turgon was unscathed,” Faramir said sadly. “I will of course do as you say.”
“You are no weakling. That young recruit had never encountered the Black Breath before. I also believe that the Enemy created his vile weapons to worst afflict the bravest and noblest of heart and mind.”
Faramir sighed then his eyes lit up. “My heart is full of thankfulness that you rescued me again from the darkness.”
“It was my pleasure. I would not be without you, ion nîn.” Aragorn smiled. “My heart rejoices that I was able to heal you.”
“Never before have I heard so sweet a song,” said Faramir. “Could even Lúthien when she sang before Melkor have weaved such magic?”
Aragorn laughed. ”You had better tell my lady that,” he said. “She is said to be as fair as Lúthien so she might well share her gift for music too.”
“You and your lady should sing together more often,” said Faramir.
Éowyn, together with Faramir’s manservant came back into the room, the latter carrying an armful of clothing.
“You and Arwen must sing the hymn to Yavanna at our harvest celebrations,” said Éowyn. “Such sweet music should be heard by all our folk here.”
“We will, for there is much to thank Lady Yavanna for,” said Aragorn. His eyes met Éowyn’s and they both looked towards Faramir. He smiled at them both, his world was full of hope and joy once more.